By Tom Harle
James Ball is sick of second best and is hell-bent on to finally going one better at the Commonwealth Games.
The Ponthir Paralympian once again settled for silver behind Scot Neil Fachie in front of a crackling home crowd at London’s velodrome.
Fachie and Ball went one-two in Tokyo last summer and did so twice at the last Games, Gold Coast 2018, with minor medals thin gruel by now for the 31-year-old.
“I’ll be happy tomorrow,” said Ball, who is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“I won silver four years ago and it would have been nice to improve on that. We put all the hard work in for gold, that’s what we train for.
“It’s still a medal on the world stage so I’m really happy with that.”
Ball and tandem pilot Matt Rotherham, who stoked Fachie in Tokyo, laid down the gauntlet with a kio clocking of 1:00:053, then a Games record.
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The pair watched that new mark fall moments later when Fachie and Lewis Stewart soared down to 59.938 for another stunning big-stage triumph at Ball’s expense.
It was Team Wales’s first medal of the Games with Ball also getting the nation off the mark on the Gold Coast four years ago.
“It’s fantastic, I’m very happy about that,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on me going so early in the Games. Hopefully Wales can be proud of that.”
The 38-year-old, who levelled the Scottish record for all-time golds at the Games, paid tribute to Ball and his role in driving up standards in para-cycling.
“We train with those guys every day, we knew how good they’d be. I thought when I saw that time, ‘we can beat this,” said Fachie. “It was tight but I knew we could do it.
“It’s because of them that we’re going as quick as we are. We’re pushing each other and we don’t want to lose to each other.
“It’s a friendly rivalry and when we break into Home Nations, we want to do it for Scotland.”
Elsewhere at the Games it was a perfect day for table tennis stars Charlotte Carey from Ebbw Vale and Carmarthen’s Anna Hursey.
As part of the Welsh quartet in the women’s team event they brushed aside the challenges of Uganda and Vanuatu in their first two games in Group 4.
They combined to win their doubles rubber against Vanuatu 11-1 11-2 11-5 in an emphatic performance as Wales didn’t drop a game.
Cwmbran hockey star Jacob Draper saw his Games start on a disappointing note as Wales went down 4-0.
And Caerphilly’s Peter Creed kicked off his men’s singles squash campaign with a 3-0 victory over Othneil Bailey of St Vincent and Grenadines.
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